Poultry farmers have expressed their concerns over the role of middlemen in the distribution chain and the cost of inputs which are making it difficult for them to earn a profit from the trade.
They say that consumers end up paying more than double the farm gate prices of chicken due to hefty charges by middlemen but that they [farmers ] do not benefit from.
“At the farm gate, chicken is sold for between Rwf3,000 and Rwf4,000 but when you enter a restaurant or pub, that very chicken goes for Rwf10,000,” said Francis Shyaka, the managing director of RwaChicks Ltd a chicken farming enterprise in Gahanga sector in Kicukiro district.
Government official figures show that poultry farming has been growing over the years with the current population standing at about 7.8 million chickens from 3.5 million in 2010.
But farmers say that the growth has only benefited the middlemen who have made it hard for the end-users to enjochicken at affordable prices, while they [farmers] struggle to make a return on the investment.
“We are still relying heavily on imported chicks or eggs for hatching; both the chicks and their feed is expensive while chicken farm gate prices remain minimal, thereby suffocating our businesses,” said Agnes Uwamahoro, a poultry farmer from Bugesera District.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources poultry meat production rose to 45,000 tonnes in 2018, from 13,700 tonnes in 2010 countrywide.
There are some 15 large commercial poultry farmers keeping between 20,000 and 100,000 layers each and 108 medium farmers with between 5,000 and 20,000 layers each.
Solange Uwituze, the deputy director-general at Rwanda Agriculture Board said that the market issues will be handled under sector reforms which are already underway.
“We are self-sufficient in terms of table eggs and chicken meat, though the yields are still below the recommended level.
We are however still importing eggs for hatching... but once we have a well organised and regularised sector in place, the market issues will be addressed,” the RAB boss said.
A five-year Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources Livestock masterplan starting in 2017 hopes to see the country register a 124 per cent rise in broilers, which are bred for meat, and a 110 per cent rise in layers, which are bred for eggs.
But with the sector growing at an average nine per cent annually, the country is still far from reaching the target.
Besides the challenge posed by the middlemen, the Rwanda Poultry Industry Association has also raised concerns about the cost of inputs which affect farmers directly.
According to government officials, engagement with chicken feed processors on bringing down costs by offering farmers subsidies are on course.
“We have started engaging chicken feed processors on how to establish short-term subsidies on chicken feed that will see farmers buy a kilo of chicken feeds below Rwf350,” said Dr Uwituze.